Jul 152010

We named this site NO CLEAN SINGING for a reason, which is spelled out in excruciating detail on the “ABOUT” page. In a nutshell, the personal tastes of myself and my two sometimes-collaborators veer toward the more soul-shakingly cathartic side of the extreme metal continuum. And for us, that tends to correlate with the absence of clean singing. But from the beginning, we’ve admitted that there are Exceptions to the Rule.

To be brutally honest (which is the only kind of honest we know how to be), there are some songs by some bands that live with us in our memories precisely because the melodies are so unforgettable — particularly when paired up with adrenaline-laced rhythms and blowtorch power. And sometimes those songs have featured clean singing. Sometimes the clean singing is part and parcel of what makes the songs so unforgettable.

There might be a better example of what we’re talking about than Sweden’s Soilwork, but if there is, it ain’t coming to mind. The first notes of songs like “Exile”, “Black Star Deceiver”, and “Stabbing the Drama” start playing, and the whole, epidemically infectious songs immediately come tumbling out of our corroded mental databases like the vivid images of old, close friends.

At the same time, Soilwork has been capable of harder-edged, melodeath marauders like “Needlefeast”, “Follow the Hollow”, “Like the Average Stalker”, and “The Chainheart Machine”. Those songs, and others like them, have tapped into the reptile parts of our brains that just want to headbang, windmill, and slam into shit.

Soilwork’s hallmark ability to straddle that divide between melodic death metal and metalcore, between mayhem and epic melody, is exactly what’s made them an NCS favorite despite all the clean singing.

So, what are we to make of the new Soilwork release, The Panic Broadcast? As a group, the three of us are conflicted. (what we mean? follow along after the jump . . .)

On the one hand, the album has got its fair share of memorable melodic anthems that undoubtedly will take up residence in our heads with past songs like “Exile”. Of those songs, “Two Lives Worth of Reckoning” is probably the strongest contender. It’s got that patented Soilwork blend of riff-laden, hardcore aggression in the verses and a big fucking melodic hook in Speed Strid‘s clean-sung chorus. “Let This River Flow”, “The Thrill”, and “Night Comes Clean” would run a close second, third, and fourth in that race.

On the other hand, despite the advance billing that The Panic Broadcast would be a more aggressive onslaught than Sworn To A Great Divide, there’s no song on the album that you could legitimately classify as melodic death metal, no song that rivals the kind of heated fury in evidence on Natural Born Chaos, The Chainheart Machine, or A Predator’s Portrait, and only one song (“Let This River Flow”) in which Speed Strid mixes in those nasty gutturals of which we know he’s capable.

Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends entirely on your taste. So, for example, my collaborator IntoTheDarkness thinks this album is the worst of the band’s last four, he thinks Strid’s voice has become annoying, and his conclusion is that Soilwork “have just gotten kind of old and boring.”

Speaking for myself, I was a big fan of Sworn To A Great Divide and although I don’t think the new album represents a stylistic departure from that album, I’m cool with it. The melodies are just too ingeniously distinctive to forget, and there’s enough rampaging riffage to feed the hungry jackal in my head.

And there’s one more thing about this album that compensates for the softening of those hard Soilwork edges of old: Co-founding member and guitarist extraordinaire Peter Wichers is back. Every song includes one of his riveting guitar solos, and man, does he set off the fireworks. (He also produced and engineered this album.)

Here are a couple of examples. The first song below is one of the relatively harder-edged offerings on The Panic Broadcast, and it includes one of those ass-kicking solos. It ends with an acoustic outro that seems surprisingly disconnected to the rest of the song — until you realize that it’s just a segue into the acoustic intro to the song that follows. And that second song is a good example of Speed Strid hitting his stride with the clean vocals. Get the chorus out of your head if you can; I can’t.

Soilwork: King of the Threshold

Soilwork: Let This River Flow

I mentioned that Soilwork has been an NCS favorite for a long time, and one reason for that is the live show all three of us witnessed the last time they passed through Seattle. It was fucking epic. And the planets are in alignment again, because Soilwork is again touring the U.S. and Canada, with a scheduled stop on July 27 here in the Emerald City.  Although we’re conflicted about the new album, we will sure as fuck be in the audience on July 27.

For the full list of tour dates and places, visit their MySpace page (here).

And let us know what you think of this album. In addition to the two songs we’ve put up for you to hear on this site, two more are available on the band’s MySpace.

P.S. The CD includes not only the very cool cover art featured at the top of this post but also a thick, glossy booklet that’s got more eye-pleasing visuals to accompany the lyrics. The artist who should take a bow is a Polish-born Swede named Bartosz Nalezinski.

  9 Responses to “SOILWORK (Conflicted)”

  1. After listening to STAGD repeatedly when it first came out, I got sick of Speed’s screaming vocals, although I never tired of his clean singing. When I heard about Panic Broadcast, I was mildly interested. Still, this is the first I have heard of it. I’m a little bit conflicted as well, because there are some really good, groovy melodies, but the melodeath backing is completely MIA. I really like Speed’s gutterals like those heard on ‘The Pittsburgh Syndrome’ (which is probably my all-time favorite Soilwork song). Wichers’ guitar leads are great. He is a definite step up in terms of skill, but I still like to hear some skull-crushing going on with my melodeath and Soilwork doesn’t provide that. I might go pick this album up for the melodies and try to zone out the screaming vocals, but I don’t know. As a whole, the new stuff is still recognizably Soilwork, but I don’t quite get all the raving reviews. I’d give it probably 3-3.5 stars.

    • I think you’ve pretty well summed up our conflicted feelings here. “The Pittsburgh Syndrome” is indeed awesome. It may have been the standout song when we heard em live a few years ago.

    • Agreed. And a big reason why I believe Speed sounded so go on STAGD (despite it being a dull album) is because Devin Townsend produced the vocals on that album. But the production is much better on here. The annoying, buzzing guitar tone is no more!

  2. Never really got into Soilwork, but like many bands, I’ve liked what I have heard from them and they’ve been a band whose discography I intend to explore eventually.

    Regarding the end of “King Of The Threshold”, I’m in agreement about that ending. It doesn’t belong with the song. I don’t know, maybe it’s meant to be a negative track, but with the way most CD players operate, as well as ripping software, these usually get added to the preceding track instead of the song they’re supposed to be part of (or simply connected to). But these aren’t always meant to be set up this way and that they get tacked on to the end of a track instead of at the front or as a short track in between sometimes bothers me. Minor detail, but sometimes these small details matter.

    Still, it’s not as bad as how nearly every live album’s tracks are laid out. Few things are more annoying than hearing the frontman babble on about the next song. It’s not so bad if you’re listening from start to finish, but if playing only a few tracks or if it’s something being played on radio (terrestrial, satellite or internet), it’s out of place. Some DJ’s do skip to what’s next in their playlist, but many more don’t bother. Until things changed for me at home, I was taking a few live tracks and removing these “now we’re gonna play this song for you” moments, just so I didn’t have to babysit my playlist. While I wasn’t able to DJ online, I have kept most of these edits around for my own playing anyway.

    • No question, as a standalone track, “King of the Theshold” is kinda screwed up by the totally disjointed ending. The only way it makes any sense is with gapless playback on a digital player moving right into the next song, and if you’re not staring at your player, you almost don’t notice that it’s the end of one track instead of the beginning of the next one. Still don’t know why they did it that way though.

      • Maybe when (or actually, I still think it’s a matter of IF) the CD is considered obsolete and nearly all music is delivered digitally, this is one “issue” that might go away. With gapless playback or simply playing an album in its entirety, such elements are likely to go unnoticed. However, I think most people tend to play individual tracks at times (if not most of the time), and when a band does this with a song, it’s kind of jarring.

  3. Inteeeeeresting… if you’ve read my review, or seen any of my posts on the band at all, you’ll see that I clearly consider STAGD to be the weakest album they’ve ever done, and “Exile” as one of their least interesting songs, reminding me more of a Godsmack b-side than a proper Soilwork song. In fact i’d say that on STAGD only the title track, “Breeding Thorns”, “I, Vermin”, “Light Discovering Darkness” and “As The Sleeper Awakes” are the only good songs, and only a few of them i would actually consider good SOILWORK songs. If that makes sense.

    The new one is far stronger in terms of song-writing, technical skill and production than either STAGD or STD (lol). Although the latter DID have it’s moments, it came off as a half-killer, half-filler Soilwork album. On the new one it’s only really “King Of The Threshold” and “Epitome” that I tend to skip, as all the rest are distinctive enough stand-alone songs, as well as being cohesive to the album as a whole.

    • For readers who dig down through these comments, Andy’s review at THE NUMBER OF THE BLOG is here:
      And now that I’ve read it, it’s much more thoughtful and well-written than mine.
      And Andy, your review made me re-think my own reaction to the album. You and I both liked it, though for different reasons, and we clearly have different preferences among Soilwork’s songs, both on this album and on previous ones. But you do make a good case that “Panic” is better than STAGD and connects more to the earlier albums that are my favorites than I gave credit for.

      • I think I *may* have been slightly over-generous, perhaps a 4, rather than a 4.5 would be more accurate.

        It’s most interesting that we both liked it for those different reasons, showing that you can never fully quantify what makes a certain band “good”.

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